As a royal correspondent for the Irish Times, I learned that Diana: the musical is on Netflix, so I canceled my extended budget coverage to write about it. (My apologies to the Politburo.)
Diana: The Musical tells the story of the famous model of tea towel and mug Diana, Princess of Wales. Members of the modern royal family have no political power and do little other than shake hands and kill their old nemesis, the fox. Having a story about a royal is like having a story about a flag, a crest or a spoon: it’s hard to dramatize.
The solution, clearly, is to make everyone sing and dance. Musicals are perfect for aristocrats with pursed lips. In musicals, people sing their unspoken inner thoughts, and no one else can hear them. On the other hand, when I sing my unspoken inner thoughts, the feelings are hurt. (Once again, my apologies to the Politburo.)
Diana is, in this musical, a commoner of the salt of the earth raised beyond her rank by the love of a royal, much like the Little Mermaid or Jay-Z
Enter Diana (Jeanna de Waal), fresh out of the middle streets of Northamptonshire. She is, in this musical, a commoner of the salt of the earth raised beyond her rank by the love of a royal, much like the Little Mermaid or Jay-Z. Darkness is on the horizon, however. A choir of royal staff sings about being “the best girl … for the worst job in England”. (I’m pretty sure real servants of the person with the “worst job in England” might claim they have “an even worse job in England, actually,” but it’s rude to talk about it.)
A swarm of press enters, depicted, as usual, with trilbies, trench coats and cockney accents. (It’s like an EastEnders episode here at The Irish Times.) Diana also wears a cozy sweater with sheep knitted in it. But if you look closely, you will see that one of the sheep is a black sheep. (I am a “critic”, just like Jacques Derrida!)
Either way, this production winks at audiences so much that it soon starts to sound like a tic. But I love this. Like most culture consumers, I never want to watch something that I haven’t seen or read a thousand times again.
Diana is courted by Charles, the heir to the British throne, which is a big, heavy chair that the British have instead of a written constitution. He already has a mistress, Camilla Parker Bowles, inventor of the “bowl”, but he does not have the impression that it is an obstacle to marriage, because, as it is said in Latin on the coat of arms of Windsor, the Royals Ride Who They Like. He’s a Prince Charles Cavalier, and one day he’ll be Cavalier King Charles.
Diana is courted by Charles. He is a buddy and takes her to a concert to listen to Bach’s music. She hates Bach because she loves street music: Dire Straits, Elton John, Showaddywaddy
He is also a fuddy-duddy and takes Diana to a concert to listen to Bach’s music. She hates Bach because she loves street music: Dire Straits, Elton John, Showaddywaddy. She imagines taking Charles to a funky club where they groove on squelchy guitars and he does “the robot”. I think if he did that now it would allow the royal family to exist for another generation. (A lot of former royal correspondents work for the crown as consultants, you know.)
They get married. The wedding has a disguise theme. Diana dresses up as a large ruffled cake and Charles dresses as a flamboyant ship captain. They attend an event in Wales in which Diana surpasses Charles and the choir line pretends to be the Welsh. They do this by wearing flat caps and singing with a ‘Welsh’ accent that sits somewhere between Scottish and owl. I did not expect to see something new in the theater one day, but I was wrong: it is something new.
Diana has a child to whom she sings âTo me, you are more than an heirâ¦â To which the baby barely stops himself from saying, âI’m pissed that you felt the need to say that, mom.
Then she has another child, to whom she sings, “Harry, my red haired son, you will always be second to none.” Which can translate to, “Harry, you red haired gonk, I’m lying to you now about the rules of succession.” “
She’s having a hard time because of Charles being rolling with Camilla, but then she ends up. “She moves in the most modern way,” sing various characters. What does that even mean? Perhaps they are referring to this performance of the “robot” earlier in the series. Or maybe she has a jet pack or wheels on her feet, like R2-D2.
We are constantly told that Diana is a revolutionary figure who will change the world. His political awakening is manifested, just as he did with James Connolly and Che Guevara, in wearing beautiful dresses and speaking to the peasants as if they were human beings and not sentient buntings.
Diana embraced AIDS patients when the world was still demonizing them. This song cannot help but be touching. Although here one of the men sings the verse “I may not be well, but I am handsome as hell”
At a royal gala, she dances on stage, flouting famous British Footloose laws. His behavior angered his royal colleagues, as it is an implicit criticism of the monarchy that suggests they should kiss more and wear better dresses. They are clearly unaware of the other critics of the monarchy who say their heads should be on spades.
Diana is still sad about Camilla, however, a pink clad Barbara Cartland arrives to speak with camp about her unfulfilled wishes. Then James Hewitt stands up through a trap door in the floor, topless, astride a saddle, while Cartland growls. It’s like something created by Jeff Koons and it’s beautiful.
Hewitt says, âThere is only one type of course I offer, horseback riding lessons,â and once again my faith in the theatrical arts is renewed. So there’s an extramarital ride for Diana, but she still has a showdown with Camilla. That’s because, dramatically, she must be the victim of this horrible marriage or it all sounds like a pile of rich crap.
In all fairness, the musical presents a truly meaningful thing that Diana has done for the world. She embraced AIDS patients when the whole world still cruelly demonized them. This song cannot help but be touching. Although in this version one of the men sings the verse “I may not be well, but I am beautiful as hell”, and this character deserves his own musical.
After that, the media war between Charles and Diana unfolds like a hastily assembled listicle. Diana’s biographer Andrew Morton sings a horrible song, that’s how I imagine him launching his books. Paul Burrell, Diana’s butler, steps in with wise melodic advice like a talking magic teapot in a Disney movie. The Queen and Diana have a completely made-up conversation in which they agree, by dramatic convention, that they aren’t that different after all. And if the Revolutionary Council ever took possession of the palace, it would probably have the same point of view.
It all ends with Diana divorced and looking to the future. “If Charles steps down and lets William rule, then all this suffering will not have been in vain,” she sings strangely, as if producing an heir was her real goal after all. Then she slowly steps off the stage as the chorus line reads reports of her tragic end. This song, sweet as I am, I find moving, even though the musical as a whole is the strangest thing I have seen since Cats. Next week: cats!